Archive for January, 2011

Timofey Mozgov came into tonight's game averaging 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. In his first appearance in three weeks, Mozgov scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to help the Knicks beat the Pistons

One of my biggest problems with Mike D’Antoni this season is his stubborness, particularly when dealing with his short rotation. The Knicks have often been killed on the boards, yet 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov and 6-11 forward Anthony Randolph have been picking splinters out of their asses, rotting on the bench.
With the team missing Wilson Chandler due to an injury and Shawne Williams suspended a game, Ronny Turiaf got into early foul trouble. So, D’Antoni had no choice but to bring Mozgov into the game. In his first game action in three weeks, Mozgov produced a monster effort, easily reaching career highs in points (23) and rebounds (14) while playing 40 minutes in the Knicks’ 124-106 win over the Pistons at the Garden Sunday night.
The game was much closer than the final score indicated, as the Knicks trailed for a good portion of this game before really breaking through in the fourth. Despite being somewhat hobbled by a knee injury, Amar’e Stoudemire scored 33 points. Danilo Gallinari fell just short of 30, hitting a few big 3s early in the fourth to key a 12-2 run that effectively sunk the Pistons. Landry Fields and Raymond Felton also reached double digits in points, and Randolph even made an appearance with five rebounds in nine minutes.
When the Knicks are getting killed on the glass, it really pisses me off when D’Antoni doesn’t go to Mozgov or Randolph for help. Maybe tonight’s game will be the proof the stubborn coach needs going forward. Either way, it was nice to see Mozgov step up tonight.

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Knicks 93, Heat 88

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Knicks

This is more like it.
Recently, the Knicks began resembling the sad-sack team of the last decade during a six-game losing streak.
The Knicks bounced back to beat the lowly Wizards (who haven’t won a road game all year), but tonight was the real test.
The Heat came to the Garden tonight, down one of their big 3 (albeit the least important of the three, Chris Bosh). The Knicks needed a strong performance and got it, although it wasn’t easy.
The Knicks trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter, with Dwyane Wade going off, scoring in every way imaginable in hitting 14 of 15 shots. His shots finally stopped falling and with the Knicks doing a great job on LeBron James all night, New York finally started hitting the open threes that weren’t dropping most of the night.
Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields each drilled huge 3s in the final minute, and the Knicks came away with a 93-88 victory to snap a seven-game slide against Miami. The Knicks played great defense down the stretch, holding the Heat to 15 points (with a good deal of those coming on uncontested layups in the final minutes as the Knicks had the lead and didn’t want to foul or give up 3-pointers). Fields continues to impress in his rookie season, as he finished with 19 points and 13 boards. Gallinari had 20 points, and I find it strange how well this guy shoots with someone in his face. He misses a ton of open looks, but if you increase the degree of difficulty, he’s money. If he gains a bit more consistency, he’s going to be a lethal outside shooter in this league for a long time.
Raymond Felton struggled for most of this one, but hit four key free throws in the final minute to ice the win.
The Knicks (24-21) travel to Atlanta Friday night in a possible playoff preview with the Hawks.

Mets sign Chris Young

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Mets

The Mets haven’t been extremely active this winter, making a few under-the-radar acquisitions as they really didn’t have a lot of money to play with. Overall, I’ve liked the few moves they’ve made, but I don’t see this team as anything close to a playoff team as currently constructed.
The Mets signed Chris Young, formerly of the San Diego Padres, to a one-year contract. The oft-injured Young will vie for a spot in the back end of the Mets’ rotation, and (just like Chris Capuano) if healthy, could be a nice pickup. That’s a big if, of course, as Young made just four appearances at the tail end of last year as he was coming off elbow surgery. A few years ago, Young was one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, posting strong ERA, WHIP and strikeout numbers with the Padres 3-4 years ago. He’s still in his early 30s and could be a solid fit for the vast expanses of Citi Field. If the season started today, the Mets’ rotation would likely look like this (assuming everyone is healthy which is a big assumption with this group): Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Young, Chris Capuano. Not really going to scare anybody with that rotation, but I’ve seen worse. If Johan can come back sometime in June or July, the rotation gets better. However, I’d still sign one of the low-risk high reward type guys out there, guys that could be had on the cheap who could bounce back for a nice season. The guy I haven’t heard connected to the Mets is 28-year-old righty Jeremy Bonderman, formerly of the Tigers. He, too, has had injury issues but would be worth a flier, as I can’t see Capuano and Young making it through the season unscathed (in fact, a Bonderman signing could allow the Mets to use Capuano out of the pen).
As the season gets closer, I’ll go into more detail about the team. I love the new management squad, but they’re a bit constricted by poor contracts dished out in the Omar era. Sandy Alderson could have close to $60 million to play with in a year, although I don’t see this group spending lavishly on risky free agents. I’m more looking forward to the first draft overseen by these guys to see if these guys follow through on sinking more resources into the draft (something I believe they will do). Still, I’m probably least excited for an individual baseball season as I have been for awhile, hopefully as spring training gets closer, I’ll get a little more fired up. These last several Mets seasons have worn on me, and although I understand the Mets’ money position and the new approach, it’s hard to be excited when there haven’t been too many noteworthy trades or signings. But perhaps my lack of expectations are a good thing. After all, I’ve been pretty excited the last 5-6 years, only to be let down in the worst of ways. I go into this year not expecting a thing, so any positives the Mets bring will be gravy for me. Less than a month until pitchers and catchers report….

Last week, I took a look at Message from the Country, the final (and perhaps best album) from brilliant English rock band The Move. Since I enjoyed that album so much, I ordered Looking On, the other Move album with Jeff Lynne in the fold.
Coming a year before Message and the debut album from spin-off group Electric Light Orchestra, Looking On finds the Move in transition as it adjusts to having a pair of strong songwriters in the group (Lynne and Roy Wood) as opposed to one.
The sound on Looking On is much heavier on the whole. It’s got a bit of a muddy sound, very early heavy metal type stuff. Actually, think Black Sabbath with songwriters that can actually, well, write songs and you’ve got a decent idea. Of course, that would be simplifying things a bit too much because as heavy as some of these songs are, they can take completely left-field turns, as is the case on the title track. Through five minutes of the 7:30 opus, it’s a pretty conventional hard rock tune, then it spazzes out into a baroque pop jam with oboes, other brass instruments and the guitars melding together in what surely was a test run for the early ELO sound.
The songs on Looking On are much longer and more jam-oriented than on Message, with all but two of the seven songs featured on the original album clocking in at five minutes or more. And they aren’t just your typical guitar freakouts. There’s a backwards drum solo on one of the two Lynne contributions – “Open Up Said the World at the Door”, Wood shows his flare for playing everything under the sun on tracks like “Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” and “When Alice Comes Back from the Farm” as he shreds on the guitar and can also play a mean sax or oboe solo, wherever the mood strikes him.
I find the Move’s music to be very interesting. Sure, it can be all over the map, but these guys weren’t your average rock band. Their music isn’t very well known in the United States, but they were huge in England and other parts of the world. Their catalogue definitely is worth exploring for the uninitiated (like I was as of a few weeks ago).

Album rating: ****
Key tracks: Looking On, Turkish Tram Conductor Blues, Feel Too Good, Open Up Said the World at the Door, What?

Knicks 100, Blazers 86

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Knicks

The Knicks continued their drive toward the playoffs tonight with an impressive road win at Portland. The Knicks controlled this one most of the way, getting a big game from Ronny Turiaf of all people, who scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Turiaf is no star, but he should get more minutes because the Knicks are pretty small and get outrebounded every night. Amar’e Stoudemire had an off night, but still managed 23 points and eight boards. Raymond Felton is having a monster year and he had another nice game tonight with 17 points and 14 assists.
The Knicks are 2-1 on their West Coast road trip and try to make it a winning a trip tomorrow night in Utah. Beating the Jazz will be a tough task, especially on the second night of a back-to-back, but I’d take a 2-2 trip at this point. Then back home for a pair of teams they should beat in the Kings and Suns. Knicks are 22-15 and look like they’ve got the horses to post their first winning season in 10 years. Baby steps, people.

The Move were an immensely popular British band in the late 60s and early 70s that never really made their mark in the United States, which is a shame because their musical chops are nearly unrivaled in the world of rock, particularly the group’s main songwriter Roy Wood. Wood practically invented the term “multi-instrumentalist” as he was equally adept at playing classical instruments like the cello, bassoon, oboe and recorder as he was at strumming the guitar.
The Move shifted through many lineups in its relatively short lifespan, but perhaps its best incarnation was its last. In 1970, Jeff Lynne joined the band to give it another songwriter to take some of the load off Wood, and also Lynne’s addition pushed Wood much like Lennon pushed McCartney and vice versa.
They recorded a pair of albums and several singles in the two years of the Wood-Lynne-Bev Bevan trio, with their last LP offering coming in late 1971 in the outstanding Message from the Country.
At the time they were recording Message, Wood, Lynne and Bevan were also working on a brand new project. That new band was the Electric Light Orchestra, which had the premise of being a rock band that also employed a classic string section on every song. The formation of ELO basically ended the Move and less than a year later, Wood left due to artistic differences with Lynne, which is a real shame. I enjoy ELO, which after its first few albums melded into a sleek pop machine with hit single after hit single well into the early 80s. But The Move is much better, much more eclectic and harder rocking than most of ELO’s output.
Message from the Country is almost split in half by Wood’s and Lynne’s songs. Wood tended to be the more experimental of the two, but each had an ear for melody and a willingness to explore new sounds and arrangements.
The Move also had a brilliant sense of humor, recording humorous tributes to Elvis on the Bevan-penned “Don’t Mess Me Up” and Johnny Cash on “Ben Crawley Steel Company”, a humorous number featuring a rare lead vocal from Bevan, the band’s excellent drummer who would stay with Lynne in ELO for the next decade.
The other novelty number is the music-hall pastiche “My Marge,” which is similar in feel to the Beatles “Honey Pie” or “When I’m Sixty-Four,” except even goofier and tongue-in-cheek.
Other than the beautiful “No Time,” the other six tracks on the original album hit pretty hard. The best is Wood’s “It Wasn’t My Idea to Dance,” which finishes with a classical music freakout during the final minute or so of the song. Lynne’s “The Words of Aaron” features some brilliant piano work and strong harmonies from Lynne and Wood, who sing together on most of the album’s tracks. Wood’s “Ella James” is a straight-ahead rocker, while Lynne’s “The Minister” sounds a bit like the Beatles’ Paperback Writer at times.
The expanded version (which came out a few years ago) is a must-have, as it includes classic Move singles “California Man,” “Tonight,” and “Chinatown,” as well as excellent B-sides. One of the B-sides is the hard-rocking “Do Ya,” which would be a hit six years later when Lynne recorded with ELO.
I basically got into this band because I loved ELO’s first album (the only one with Wood, Lynne and Bevan together) and also most of Jeff Lynne’s work in general. Through my purchase of this classic, I now want to explore the rest of the band’s catalogue as well as Wood’s work with Wizzard and as a solo artist. I still don’t understand why this band never hit it big over here. Guess everyone was busy listening to the Carpenters and Partridge Family at the time…..

Sod rating: ***** (get the expanded edition, the extra tracks are a must)
Key tracks: It Wasn’t My Idea to Dance, The Words of Aaron, Ella James, The Minister, Message from the Country, Tonight

Following yet another disappointing failure down the stretch, the Giants missed the playoffs despite winning 10 games. And although it’s a travesty the 7-9 Seahawks make the playoffs over the Giants and Bucs (each 10-6) and an even bigger joke they get to host a playoff game against the Saints, the Giants dug their own grave with their annual December choke-a-thon.
Don’t get me wrong, the Eagles debacle was about as bad as I’ve felt as a football fan (I mean one defensive stop in the fourth quarter and the Giants are division champs), the Giants still had everything to play for the next week in Green Bay, yet looked like a semipro team in getting demolished 45-17 by the Packers, committing six turnovers along the way.
The Giants topped a subpar Redskins team (who they own) in the finale by a mere three points, but the result was academic once the Packers beat the Bears.
Countless times under Tom Coughlin, the Giants have started great and then folded late. I know he led them to an improbable Super Bowl title three years ago, but how much longer can the goodwill from that season last? Coughlin hasn’t won a playoff game with the Giants otherwise and has seen his team tank it time and time again. So what does Giants ownership do? Not only do they say Coughlin will be back for 2011, but they are ready to offer him a contract extension. For what? To be the Eagles’ bitches the next two seasons?
There is no way the Giants should have lost six games in a row to the Eagles. No way. Too much talent there. Yet, they have, and it’s only going to continue under Coughlin’s ‘leadership.’
Nice message the ownership is sending to the fans. Missing the playoffs and colossal collapses are acceptable. At least the Knicks are playing well for a change.